Control of a gene transfer agent cluster in Caulobacter crescentus by transcriptional activation and anti-termination.

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Gene Transfer Agents (GTAs) are phage-like particles that cannot self-multiply and be infectious. Caulobacter crescentus, a bacterium best known as a model organism to study bacterial cell biology and cell cycle regulation, has recently been demonstrated to produce bona fide GTA particles (CcGTA). Since C. crescentus ultimately die to release GTA particles, the production of GTA particles must be tightly regulated and integrated with the host physiology to prevent a collapse in cell population. Two direct activators of the CcGTA biosynthetic gene cluster, GafY and GafZ, have been identified, however, it is unknown how GafYZ controls transcription or how they coordinate gene expression of the CcGTA gene cluster with other accessory genes elsewhere on the genome for complete CcGTA production. Here, we show that the CcGTA gene cluster is transcriptionally co-activated by GafY, integration host factor (IHF), and by GafZ-mediated transcription anti-termination. We present evidence that GafZ is a transcription anti-terminator that likely forms an anti-termination complex with RNA polymerase, NusA, NusG, and NusE to bypass transcription terminators within the 14?kb CcGTA cluster. Overall, we reveal a two-tier regulation that coordinates the synthesis of GTA particles in C. crescentus.